PHILIPPINES: Ombudsman did not investigate cases of threat and torture on its own


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-035-2011
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Human rights defenders, Labour rights, Right to remedy, Threats and intimidation,

Dear friends, 

With regard to two cases that we have asked the Ombudsman to conduct investigations into one involved threats to the lives of an activist and his family. No investigation had been conducted in this case. They did investigate the second one which involved the torture of three activists but did not provide a copy of the investigation report which they used as reason to terminate the case. 


In January 20, 2006, we asked the Ombudsman to investigate two cases. One concerned allegations that the military were responsible in making threats to the lives of Enrico Estarez and his family; the second was about the arbitrary detention and torture of three of his colleagues, Francis Paraon, Reynaldo Pizon and Herminio Zuniga. For details, please read: UA-030-2006

In our appeal, we identified Colonel Oliras and several men attached to the 24th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the soldiers who were responsible in threatening Estarez. Estarez had to go on hiding with his family, on 3 November 2005 in San Miguel, Bulacan. 

We also named the soldiers who arbitrarily detained and tortured Paraon, Pizon and Zuniga as Lieutenant Colonel Reyes and his men, all are attached to the same military unit. 

Apart from this case, the AHRC had also subsequently documented the case of the enforced disappearance of an activist, Rogelio Concepcion in 6 March 2006 (AHRC-UAC-087-2006) and villagers abandoning their homes due to harassment by the military in the same province (AHRC-UAC-139-2006). 


In their Report dated April 26, 2006, which was received by the AHRC in January 22, 2010, after nearly four years since our complaint was submitted, it did not contain information about their investigation on the allegations that Colonel Oliras and his men were responsible for threatening Estarez. 

Ms. Ana Lissa Silapan-Hizon, associate graft investigation officer of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Office (MOLEO), instead argued on the issue of Estarez having to go on hiding due to threats, that: 

“In the case of Estarez, CHR has concluded that what transpired was to his own liking and decision.” 

And on the allegations of arbitrary detention and torture of Paraon, Pizon and Zuniga, she concluded that: 
“Based on the investigation conducted by the CHR (pp. 8-10, Records), contrary to the allegations of torture committed on Paraon, Piza and Zuniga, all of them have given a statement that they were happy working at Console and nobody was disturbing them and added that they have no plans of filing complaints against the soldiers who interrogated them.” 

Ms Hizon, therefore, had recommended that: 

IN VIEW THEREOF, investigation having conducted by the appropriate office which has jurisdiction over the aforementioned case, undersigned Action Officer recommends that the corresponding CPL be considered CLOSED and TERMINATED insofar as this Office is concerned. 

Let the Asian Human Rights Commission be furnished a copy of this Report for their information.” 

COMMENTS: “No adequate investigation, transparency of information” 

Firstly, the delay in the sending of the Ombudsman investigation report, which is nearly four years from the time the complaint was filed, in itself grossly deprived the victims of any possibility of redress and remedy. By the time that the Ombudsman’s investigation report was receive, the victims either could no longer be located to question the substance of the report because they were in hiding or had lost interest in it. 

Also, it is obvious that the Ombudsman, as an agency who has the power to investigate allegations of abuse by the security forces, did not investigate on its own volition. In the report that Ms. Ana Lissa Silapan-Hizon, on the “discussion/finding part” she based all the conclusion of her report on the investigation conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). 

However, since the Ombudsman did not provide any copies of the CHR’s reports on these two cases to the AHRC on which they based their conclusion, it was impossible to thoroughly examine the basis of the Ombudsman’s conclusion; and as to whether the information provided by the CHR to the Ombudsman were accurate. 

Violates obligation to “act promptly on complaints” 

The Ombudsman also breached its legal obligation to their mandate under the Ombudsman Act of 1989 and the Executive Order 292 of the Administrative Code of 1987

The Ombudsman Act of 1989 
Section 13. Mandate. — The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against officers or employees of the Government, or of any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants in order to promote efficient service by the Government to the people

Subtitle B: Office of the Ombudsman, Administrative Code of 1987 
Section 3. Action and Complaints. – The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaint filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the Government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and shall, in appropriate cases, notify the complainants of the action taken and the result thereof

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (